Aquaponic Gardening

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Hello folks. I know it's kind of last minute, but I'm organizing a Santa Cruz area tour of AP gardens for August 18th, and possibly the 25th if demand calls for it. If you have an AP garden that you would like to share, or if you would like to join the tour, please contact me at

So far I have my own place, the Aquaponic and hydroponic gardens at Cabrillo College, and a handful of others awaiting the details. After the tour, guests are welcome back to my place for BBQ, beer, campfire, live music (hopefully, my band just informed me their drummer is out of town), and overnight camping if you like.

Contact me soon, and this is RSVP only. This is just for fun and education, no charge, and we will have a good time.

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Definitely looking for Ap gardens to sign on, just to be clear. Happy also to organize future tours of San Francisco and Monterey bay area tours, so drop me a note. Open to suggestions too, for what it is people would like to see and do, and any musicians willing to play for fun (and food and drink, of course)

My wife and I are interested - let me know if you need any other information regarding an RSVP.

I am very interested. What time would you start?
Great, Paul and Bryan. To RSVP just send me an email to with how many would like to join, and if you'd like to camp at my place, so I can plan accordingly. I'll communicate back by email later this week with when and where to meet, and an itinerary. I'm thinking to begin at 10, but I'm flexible.

John, Seems like I won't be able to attend unfortunately. Sounds like a great outing though. Thank you for providing this opportunity. 

Not sure if I can make it out this weekend but I'd definitely like to. I'll send you an email right after I post this. Thanks Jon.

No problem, Paul, catch you next time (but you'll sure wish you came when you see the pics) Fishy, I hope you can make it. I'd guess about 20 signed on now, and half a dozen staying to camp.

So, in an odd twist of plans, the Aug 18th tour will begin in San Jose, at Paul Holoeko's home. He asked me to post this, and I can't wait to see it.

"Hey Jon,
If you want to send out a small description of the first place to visit, here is a brief description of my AP system. 
Native California ecology is used to produce a functional outdoor/year-round Aquaponics system.  Some traditional hydroponics is borrowed for availably and connivance reasons.  The system is broken into three functional locations. All three locations are interconnected with water circulating between them.  The bog/pond section acts as a gunk filter where anaerobic bacteria produces acids as a product.  This keeps the natural pH of the system down.  (around 6.8 to 7.0) Plants in this pond/bog function as a small eco-system where CA native ecology can exist.  The planter beds are traditional flood/drain hydroponic tubs.  Falling water aerates water to about 19 to 20% oxygen.  Flood/drain is accomplished by auto siphons.  This is the balanced, aerobic part of the system.  Last, the fish/decomposition tank functions as a feeding/algae/decomposition chamber.  Fish and cray fish are kept.  When anything dies, it is thrown into this tank where scavengers and predators dispose of any dead organic waste.  When several fish die, the ammonia does go up to a peek of 0.125 ppm.  Later it goes back to close to zero in a few days.  Nitrite and Nitrates never move. 
The system is self contained.  The only energy entering the system is sun light and electricity for running a pump. Fish are never fed.  Veggies and all sorts of plants grow quickly because of the rich nature of the water.  Pest control is done by Mother Nature's  Integrated Pest Management.  The AP system is situated in the middle of a high diversity soil garden.  There are all sorts of plants and flowers attracting insects.


Paul Holowko

Host and Producer of the TV show 'Gardening Rhythms' 
'Gardening Rhythms' shows natural gardening methods,
scientific technology and organic methods for land & soil
creation and regeneration.  See website for times and
Follow onTwitter  @pholowko"

After Paul's house, we will head to Santa Cruz for the rest of the stops. If San Jose is too far for anyone, no worries, just join us at our first Santa Cruz stop. Please email me if you'd like to go, and as now, we still have room. I'll email the details to all those attending shortly. I would just openly post, but don't want too many to show unexpectedly and overwhelm the hosts.

Thanks everyone, this will be fun.

WOW! that sounds pretty frickin cool. Still looking like a 10am start? That is really my determining factor, I have to drive my sister to the airport Sat AM.

I just sent you an email, Fishy. Actually it starts at 9:00 AM in San Jose, which is about the same for you as 10:00 in SC. If you're running late, just meet up later down the line, no worries. There are 5 stops, whew, so plenty to see. Thanks
Hey everybody, thanks to those who showed their gardens, and to the 30 or so that joined to see and ask questions. It was a great success, and I think everybody had a great time. There is still plenty of room on this coming weekend's tour, and room for another garden to add if anyone would like to share.

I'll post some pictures tonight, so stay tuned.

The tour started off with Paul's extremely interesting and beautiful garden. Paul doesn't feed his fish, and you'll see in the pictures to come that the plants are vibrant and healthy. He has a three part system, with anaerobic zones nurtured at every possible point, quite unconventional in AP. A small pond (chock full of potted plants) under a peach tree and surrounded by flowers, grapes, and native plants, is pumped to a large glass tank. The glass tank holds his fish and Crawdads, and is carpeted in algae, though the water is crystal clear. From there, it flows to a tower of 2'x 2' grow trays, full of eggplant, peppers, peanuts, and more, each on a bell siphon. Then it returns to the pond.

Next was UCSC, which honestly wasn't much to see, but we learned something at every stop. Their system is cool because it is completely powered by a very simple PV panel and water pump. No external power, and no real maintenance. While we were there, a dozen bright red dragonflies were in-flight mating and laying eggs, and the mosquito fish were frenzied under them eating their eggs. Never seen that before.

Next was Elio's brand new IBC system built on a flat bed trailer for mobility, in case he ever moves he can take it with him. It was nice to see a brand new project, as everything was clean and shiny, easy to see the plumbing and components. Elio even showed us his BSFL bin, made from an old cooler.

Cabrillo was the following stop, and there is a lot to see there. It could be a tour of its own. Several aquaponic and hydroponic gardens, greenhouses, and a wealth of knowledge shared the Peter Shaw, director of horticulture.

And last, was my place, and of course beer and BBQ. Pics to follow.

Paul Holowko's fish tank, holding goldfish, craws, (tilapia until a recent malfunction with a solar collector cooked them), and now some bluegill Paul got from me. From here, water flows to flood and drain tables growing veggies.


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